Genre: Spiritual/ Non-Fiction/Parenting
About the Author:
Lom Harshni Chauhan is from the Himalayan town of Shimla, India. She has been living in China since 2002, and has worked in both India and China in higher education and corporate learning and development. She has also run an NGO in south west China. She considers herself a learner, believes living is a skill and that all skills can be learnt. Visa, Stickers and other Matters of the Soul is her first book.
Read more about Lom here or Connect with her on Facebook.
‘Thus it was that as I rocked my little baby to sleep, I often wondered what I should give her: a mind conditioned towards the accepted societal concept of God, or a blank mind that would make its own opinions once older.’
When Lom Harshini Chauhan reached out to me to review her book, I told her just one thing: It will be a balanced review, because I believe in the integrity of the written word. The way she agreed with me wholeheartedly is one reason I truly am happy that I agreed to read this book. Very few people can take criticism of their work, but here was an author who not only agreed, but actually welcomed it.
If you read the introduction to the book, you will know why. Lom believes in being practical about everything- be it spirituality, parenting, martial arts or trekking up the Great Wall of China with her daughter in tow- and it was a refreshing take to see someone who echoed my thoughts on spirituality and religion so closely.
Kyra, Lom’s daughter, who plays the central role in the book is very similar in many ways to my own daughter, Gy. The way she questions beliefs, challenges traditions and ritual but is still capable of complete abandon and child-like enthusiasm are aspects I see mirrored very closely in Gy.
Parts of the book tell you why you can relate to Lom so well. The feeling of despair that a mother feels when the child is capable but chooses not to try due to shyness is so palpable. At the same time, I admire the way Lom does not push but gently prods Kyra to find her level of comfort with trying something new- be it a music class or a mountain trek or a type of meditation.
There’s a bit of something for everyone in the book, primarily because it does not shy away from reality. If Lom talks about Chinese Buddhism in one chapter, the very next one talks about Shah Rukh Khan and his popularity. Young love and marriage are described with nostalgia and learning as much as Justin Bieber and Barbie dolls. This does not mean that she does so flippantly. On the contrary, she skilfully weaves the topics together to show why we can simultaneously be a part of the popular world and still pursue a spiritual path.
Here, Lom speaks to me in the language that I know- simple and clear. I admire writers who can say what they want to say without resorting to high-brow vocabulary or convoluted sentences. On that count, the book scores very well.
Editing again, must be commended. I did not find any typos, grammatical errors, flaws in writing which I must admit are a very common feature in most books these days. It made reading the book a veritable pleasure. Some chapters were rather short, though and I wished they could have gone a bit further.
What I’d have liked more:
Some of the chapters are a bit limited in their scope and I would have loved to see them fleshed out a bit more. The way she describes the various stickers falling off – anger, shyness- are fascinating, and deserve a bit more detail, in my opinion.
The chapter ‘Who Am I‘, just two pages long promises to be a very interesting quest into the need for soul searching, but stops rather abruptly when Kyra loses interest in the Q and A session. I was hoping it would be broached upon later in the book.
Similarly, the chapter on ‘Yama’s Messengers’ seemed oddly out of place in the context of the book. Perhaps it could have tied in with the whole spiritual quest that Lom and Kyra embark upon, but I didn’t see the connection.
We all want a supportive environment for our kids, one in which they can grow up to be thinking, confident and secure individuals in their own right. It is one thing to do it in the comfort of the world that you grew up in and pass it on as a rite of passage to the next generation. But to be placed in the midst of a culture that is not only different but downright divergent from everything you know, it becomes difficult and it is compelling to be swayed.
Lom walks this tightrope between belief and analysis very well and presents a book that is worth reading. If you are like me, introspecting on the nature of choice, the need for religion in its current sense and want a deeper, more spiritual experience for your children, then this book is for you.
Another review of the book can be found at The Huffington Post here.
I received this book from Pan Macmillan in exchange for an honest review.
Please note that the views expressed here are solely mine
and not influenced in any way by the author or the publisher.
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